The Joys of Rewriting/The Power of Beta Readers

Someone once said that writing your first draft is easy, but writing the second draft is hard. That ‘someone’ severely understated how difficult the editing/rewriting process can be. Let me clarify and tell you that it is evil. Pure evil. I know this because I have had to rewrite many sentences, paragraphs, pages, and chapters again and again…only to realize it’s still not quite right. As much as it makes me want to tear my hair out and go all out Hulk on my computer, I can’t deny it’s value. I know the story will be better for it.

I’m sharing this because my awesome evil genius minions team of beta readers have informed me that chapter 1 needs an overhaul. Something about it doesn’t click, and it’s just not as good as the rest of the story. Since, I’ve written about the importance of a first sentence in a previous post, (while managing to screw up the first sentence of my own book), I figured I would share the updated version here. Here’s a quick preview of the new opening paragraph of The Dark Matter Chronicles:

No matter how many times he repeated the words to himself, they refused to sound right. It was only a dream. It couldn’t possibly be anything else. Alexander let out a sigh of exhaustion and pressed his forehead against his bedroom window. When he opened his eyes, his reflection stared back at him, lit up by the moonlight that gleamed off the aging glass. Nothing about his appearance had changed in the half hour he had stood in the same spot with the same confused attitude. His grey eyes still had the warmth of a winter sweater and his unruly black hair still looked like it was in dire need of a trim. His pale skin divulged how worn down he really felt, but that wasn’t unusual either. But he found it difficult to look at himself the same way again knowing he had somehow transported himself to another world and back. Unless, it was only a dream.

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And it Begins! (The 1st Paragraph of The Dark Matter Chronicles)

The opening to any book is crucial.  Some leading sentences are iconic and memorable, while others are straightforward and simple. Regardless of what it says, I believe that an opening sentence sets the tone for the rest of book, (think Great Expectations or Pride and Prejudice).  Capturing that tone is so important that authors will spend hours, days, weeks, etc. perfecting it.

Case in point: I’ve rewritten my 1st Chapter 7 times over the course of 2 years.  I made 4 attempts at starting that 7th version, and even then couldn’t find the right words.  After a long period of sitting, staring, and going cross-eyed, I spotted it!  Somewhere in the middle of that 4th attempt at version 7, I found a sentence that was usable but still needed work.  Words had to be rearranged or thrown out; some were outright butchered.  Red ink covered the pages.  Many pieces of paper were harmed.

But I think at the end of the battle, I found the right words and put them in the right order.  It’s moments like that when writers feel a sense of accomplishment– the moment when words sing like notes in a harmonious melody.

So, in honor of the all-important opening sentence, I’ve decided to share the first paragraph of The Dark Matter Chronicles. I’d love to hear what you guys think:

The leaves of the vine laced everything, including the columns of the black gothic domed structure and the massive white sundial that stood beneath it. They emanated their odd colors so intensely that he was convinced they were glowing.  Alexander had never seen violet, indigo and blue leaves dispersed amongst red, orange, yellow and green ones—and not just on the vines—the black trees of the thick forest seen in every direction through the columns were a splattering of color as well.  They rustled playfully as a warm, sweet breeze caressed them.

Is it a compelling opening that makes you want to read more?  What are some of your favorite opening sentences?

Leave your comments below or reply on Twitter @MXKremzen.  Thanks!